Greetings from Kathmandu! After a whirlwind week in New York City, we left at 11 am Monday morning to fly 16 hours to Guangzhou, China, where we laid over for 4.5 hours. Then we flew 5 more hours to Kathmandu. We arrived at our guest house around midnight Nepal time, and met a car at 9am the next morning for our first day of in-country orientation!
The week of orientation in NYC was jam-packed with social events, fancy food, panels on Asian politics, more food, briefings about visas and travel information, last minute packing, and still more food. My fellow scholars are absolutely brilliant, and I am lucky to be part of this group of world changers who are just starting their adventures in places all around Asia.
Although New York was great, I am glad to finally be in Nepal. Emily Dickey (my fellow Nepal scholar) and I are the first two Luce scholars to ever be placed in Nepal, which means we are “guinea pigs” for the Nepal program (although I prefer “trailblazers”). Because of this, we had extremely limited knowledge of what would happen when we got here, and despite everyone’s best efforts at preparation in New York, I still felt woefully underprepared as I boarded the plane.
After over 24 hours of travel, it was a relief to finally arrive in Kathmandu. I had been warned that the airport was a confusing mess, but it actually wasn’t that bad—it was so small that everything were very easy to find, and the signs were mostly in English. The girl who sat next to us on the plane helped us get through customs and find the baggage claim. All our bags came through unscathed, and my viola caused no problems as a carry-on (to my immense relief).
Just as we had been told, there was a man waiting outside the airport holding a sign with our names on it. Somebody muscled his way over to carry our bags, and demanded $10 in American cash as a tip. We gave him $4, which is a ridiculous amount but at least made him go away. The drive from the airport to the guest house was harrowing—in Kathmandu, they drive on the left side of the street, and there seem to be NO traffic laws. I think we almost died twice, and almost killed somebody on a bike at least three times. Our guest house is incredibly nice (paid for the first four nights by The Asia Foundation, to allow us to get our footing)—real toilets and wifi, my two biggest fears.
Our day started at 9 am, when a car from The Asia Foundation picked us up from the guest house. Our primary point of contact at TAF (actually more like babysitter) is Ashray Pande. Ashray gave us a rundown of the current political situation in Nepal (complicated), basic programs run by the TAF (community based mediation and stakeholder management, among other things), and helped us sort out the details of living in Nepal.
To our great appreciation, the TAF office had already purchased Nepali SIM cards for our cell phones. Tomorrow they are also helping us set up a Nepal bank account, taking us to the CIWEC clinic to get our rabies vaccinations, and touring several housing options with us. Thank goodness they are willing to hold our hands us during these first few days! Little helpful things like that are an incredible stress relief.
For my outdoor friends: no, I have not seen Mount Everest yet. In fact, I haven’t seen a single mountain. It was dark when we flew in last night, and the monsoon-season clouds and air pollution obscure pretty much everything here in the city. But there are many other things to see, since Kathmandu itself is an overload of vibrant colors and shapes. Unlike the United States, where buildings often look similar, structures in Kathmandu are unique and crowded close together. Buildings are all different colors, and many are surrounded by trees, bushes, and flowers. It is hot and humid at the moment, but the monsoon rain is not bad so far—just drizzles here and there, and barely enough for a raincoat.
I suspect daily life will become more difficult once we move out of the guesthouse and are no longer under the close supervision of the TAF office. But for now, I am so grateful that the move to Nepal has been this smooth.
Hello from NYC! After a whirlwind of finals week, senior week, three days of graduation ceremonies, and a Moravek family grad/birthday party, I'm finally on the first leg of my journey to Nepal! I have a suitcase, a 50L backpack, a school bag, and my viola (yes, I’m taking my viola to Nepal…more on that another day).
I'll be here in New York for the next six days for the Luce scholar orientation. This is where I learn all the details I've been guessing at for the past few months- where I'm living, how I will learn to speak Nepali, what I'll be doing at work, and advice on how to adjust to the culture. I will also have a chance to bond with the 17 other Luce Scholars, who are from all over the United States and are going to many different places in Asia. Our week will include panels with experts on SE Asia, meals at extremely nice restaurants, and a bowling outing (gotta work on my form…). On Monday, June 27th, I will board a plane to Guangzhou, China, and then to Kathmandu, Nepal.
In many ways, it’s a relief to finally be here—that means I can stop worrying about packing and start being excited about the adventure to come. Packing for a yearlong trip to a four-season developing nation is a challenge to say the least. One minute I think I have too much stuff, the next I feel like I have nothing at all. The most important pieces of luggage are my trusty hiking boots, my spare glasses, and my water filter. Oh, and diarrhea medicine...anyway, I managed to get everything from Chicago to NYC without too much trouble, so hopefully I’ll be fine.
Beginning the adventure is also terrifying and sad. First of all, I have no idea what will happen when I get there. That is very scary for a Type A, list oriented, “stick to the plan” person like me. Second, it is weird to think I won’t see my parents or friends for a long time. Hopefully the wonders of modern technology keep us in touch.
Several thank yous are necessary (in no particular order): Thanks to my amazing mother, who did NOT cry at the airport when she dropped me off (even though I did). Thank you to dad, who wore a cowboy hat to Northwestern’s graduation. Thanks to Amazon Prime for supporting my last minute packing habits. Thanks to Josie for taking me shopping on Saturday. Thanks to Kolton, Leena, and Sammi for making our time at NU happy. Thanks to Shannon for flying 1000 miles just to say goodbye. Thanks to Dr. Blair for believing in my ability to succeed even though I broke everything in his lab. Thanks to the NU Fellowship Office team for teaching me to write. Of course, I cannot name every person that needs thanking, nor can I list all the things I should thank you for. So to everyone else, for all the other things, thank you.
Enough with the sappy stuff. I got to New York and ended up on the hotel shuttle with a cool shuttle driver who was rocking out to Beyonce. Unfortunately, he turned out to be not so cool, because he dropped me off at the wrong hotel (Roger Smith Hotel, instead of Roger Williams Hotel). I had to get a cab to get to the right spot. Once I made it to the hotel, we met for a cocktail hour, and then had a 4-course dinner at the Yale Club (there were FOUR forks at my place. Four!). Then we had an introduction about the history of Vietnam. Vietnam is this year’s focus country, so it is the focus of most of our group activities this week, and we will spend three weeks there to wrap up in July 2017.
So far so good!
Welcome to my website/blog! As you probably know, I will be spending the next year living in Kathmandu, Nepal, as a 2016-17 Luce Scholar. I will be learning to speak Nepali, engaging in local culture, and working for a Nepal-based wildlife conservation group. I am excited to explore nature in new places with new people!
First off, to clarify: I am not going to Nepal to hang out as a hippie backpacker in Kathmandu (although there’s nothing wrong with that). The purpose of my year in Nepal is to broaden my knowledge of worldwide environmental issues such as water resource availability, climate change, and human-wildlife interactions. Understanding these challenges from an Asian standpoint, specifically in a developing, diverse, and recently devastated (by the April 2015 earthquake) country like Nepal, will provide invaluable context for my future work as I research environmental issues on a global scale.
I am using this blog to record my observations of environmental challenges in Nepal, and to process how those challenges connect to people, culture, and science. My main goal is to explore these questions: How do people connect with the environment in Nepal? In what ways do these connections influence environmental research and conservation? What are the consequences of research and conservation for the lives of Nepali people?
That being said, you should honestly expect a little bit of everything. I’ll be posting a combination of updates, observations, stories, and ideas as I process my time in the Himalayas. I plan to share details about packing, traveling, daily life, cultural and culinary adventures, nature explorations, and notes from my work with Wildlife Conservation Nepal. I also might throw in some personal connections: how did I end up in Nepal, and what does it mean for my future?
Overall, I am thrilled to be able to share my experiences in Nepal with you, my family, friends, colleagues, peers, and fellow travelers! Please feel free to leave comments, send emails, or message me on Facebook! Words from you are always appreciated.
*Note that internet access will be spotty, so I’m planning to write as I go and upload when I can!
Meet Jessie Moravek
I am a 2018 Fulbright Scholar at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. Studying for an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation. Click here to learn more about me!